The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Is all photography abstract?

I was recently roped into a "Facebook Challenge" where participants were asked to post black and white photos with no people in them, and no explanations or backstories.

Because I'm a professional photographer the expectations to deliver something reasonable are much higher than they are for most people. Every time I post an image, my reputation is on the line.

But as someone who specialises in photographing people, this took me far further out of my comfort zone than it would for a wildlife or landscape photographer.

I spent (way too much) time going back through folders of images on my computer to see what I could find, and before long I started thinking about the nature of abstraction.

And with these thoughts whirling around my mind, I found myself selecting images where you could recognise what the subjects were, but you were not seeing them as you normally would.

In all photography the moment we frame the image, we chose what we are including and what we are leaving out.

The shutter speed we select might have the effect of creating interesting blurs, or making a movement static so we see things frozen in a way our eyes would never normally be able to capture.

The aperture we use affects the depth of field – what is in focus and what is not. The settings can create an effect where pretty much everything is clearly visible, or only a very small part.

And finally, when you remove the colour from an image, unless you are completely colour blind, the process of abstraction shifts up another level.

Whoever said "the camera never lies" was clearly a first class bullshitter.

So this post includes the images I ended up selecting and manipulating, plus a couple of extra ones.

Let me know in the comments which, if any, speak to you.



Alan Richardson said...

The fifth one down. Truly abstract and minimalist. But I did finally see that it is grasses, or reeds, reflected but that is a pedestrian explanation of a pleasing pattern.

Kim Ayres said...

Alan - this one was taken on a misty day with virtually no wind and a mirror-like loch. It was impossible to see where the water ended and the sky began. I took several photos of grasses and reeds that day, but this was definitely my favourite :)

Viji said...

The boat one and the last. I don't feel the distance or time. Feel as if sitting on the boat watching the makeshift oar's reflection.. The way it it's curved and like a snake slithering. The last one is my next favourite. I just need to lower my palm to catch hold that droplet of water.

hope said...

The boat is my favorite. There's a peaceful feeling to it.

(And I'm a sucker for anything with that perfect drop of water hanging like a jewel).

Apex Zombie said...

FYI, Kepa here :)

The boat, with the rope's reflection distorted by the ripples of the water is one of my favourites. Apart from just loving the composition, it made me think about perception, and how something that can appear "in order" can actually be a rollercoaster beneath the surface.

And the photograph directly above it, the leaves poking out of a still body of water? I just love how stark it is. It's almost nothing, but that entire frame is filled by tangible stuff. Love it.

Ponita in Real Life said...

I love the second one. The water droplets are like tiny pearls suspended on the branches of what appears to be a small plant. And if you look carefully, you can see a couple of strands of spider silk draped across the space between the branches.

That being said, they are all lovely!

Kim Ayres said...

Viji, Hope and Kepa - the one with the boat I adapted from a few photos I took in a small seaside village a few years ago. You can see other photos from the time there if you follow this link:

Ponita - that was one of the first photos I ever did where I started playing with a very wide aperture, which creates a very shallow depth of focus - so very quickly everything drops off blurred. It was a misty day too, so the background just disappeared. It influenced many of the not-people photography I've done since :)

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